Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Movie Review: Us (R – 116 minutes)

Us is the second movie from Jordan Peele, and if you saw Get Out, you know how skilled he is at elevating the horror genre to something that feels simply familiar and yes, somehow simultaneously complexly completely new. 

Us begins with a flashback to the Santa Cruz amusement park boardwalk in the late 80s, yes, the same place they shot The Lost Boys.  Young Adelaide is walking with her parents, Russel and Rayne, who seem to be arguing quite a bit. Russel wins Adelaide a T-Shirt, then heads over to the Whack a Mole game while Rayne heads to the restroom.  Adelaide wanders off and enters a hall of mirrors where she encounters a terrifying reflection.

Years later, Adelaide and her family, husband Gabe, son Jason, and daughter Zora, are heading to Santa Cruz for a family vacation.  As they get closer, Adelaide gets more and more uncomfortable – it seems she has blocked most of the traumatic fear she felt as a result of her childhood scare.  While there, one night the Wilsons notice a family at the end of their driveway. Without any spoilers here – the family breaks into the house, and as you’ve seen in the trailers, they are doppelgangers of the Wilsons.  Terror ensues.

I can’t really say much else about the movie without getting into spoilers. As with Get Out, there are a ton of tiny details that you can pick up here and there in the setup of the situations that Peele uses to foreshadow the conclusion and add layers to the discussion of the ‘meaning’ of the movie.  Unlike Get Out, the meaning in Us is far less clear and much more open to interpretation.  That is either very good, or very frustrating, depending on the type of viewer you are.  It is absolutely a study of the duality present in all of us, but does that stretch to a more social and geopolitical meaning or is it drawing parallels to the race and class divides currently present in our country?  Yes, and no.  Honestly, Peele has created a movie that is striking when you first see it, but falls apart the more questions you ask. Is it a thriller, or is it more a science fiction horror flick?  Are the Tethered (the doubles) monsters, victims, or something else entirely?

It is definitely worth seeing, and if you are going to see it – do it in a full theater so that you can react to the jump scares with everyone else!  Yes, there are some scary moments, and it’s bloody, but not too gory, if that makes sense. There are some genuinely scary moments mixed with some genuinely hilarious moments.  The cast is exceptional. The story is interesting, but the work the cast does is what elevates the material, and once you’re no longer watching them present the story, you begin asking the questions that poke holes in the plot – which speaks to their skill.

  • Lupita Nyong’o is absolutely amazing as Adelaide. She manages to bring a lovely maternal presence to the primary role and a terrifying abandonment to her doppelganger.  She carries the movie, and once she begins to figure out what is going on, she’s unleashed as a mother determined to protect her family.

  • Winston Duke is so good as Gabe and his doppelganger that you can often forget he’s also the guy playing the doppelganger.  Gabe is very much a Jordan-Peele –style dad, there for his family but wanting to match up with his friend and co-worker Josh, who just bought a new car.

  • Shahadi Wright Joseph plays Zora, and while the family is disappointed she no longer wants to run track, she’s convinced she’s making the right decision for herself.  She’s almost better as the doppelganger who is incredibly unsettling.
  • Evan Alex plays Jason, and his doppelganger is also terribly unsettling due to the skittering around like a non-human, which is always creepy as hell. He also does a great job realizing his connection to his double, and how to manipulate him. 

  • Elisabeth Moss plays Kitty and Tim Heidecker plays Josh, the friends that the Wilsons run into at the beach. They are stereotypical ‘haves’ bragging about their new boat, their new car, and her new plastic surgery.  They also live in a huge house and are comically not into one another and Josh spends his time bragging about this and that while Kitty spends her time drinking.  They pay zero attention to their kids.  Both are amazing as their doubles, and Heidecker seems to be having more fun than anyone else in the movie, but he also seems to be in a different movie from time to time.  Cali and Noelle Sheldon play their twin daughters.

  • Yahya Abdul-Mateen II plays Russel and Anna Diop plays Rayne in the flashbacks to Adelaide’s first trip to the amusement park.

Overall, the movie is expertly performed, and well-crafted, but I personally did not care for it.  I am not a horror movie fan, so the callback and homages to classic horror movies did nothing for me. I really enjoyed Get Out, and was looking forward to this.  Slight spoiler-y side-note, the rabbits you’ve seen in the trailers do get eaten alive, quickly and off-screen, but still, they were screaming and that upset me more than anything else in the movie.  I was very worried about that from the first time I saw rabbits in one of the trailers, so I used the site DoesTheDogDie.com to look up what the status of the rabbits would be in the movie, and I am very grateful to that site and will recommend it to everyone! 

I enjoyed the experience of watching Us in a theater, but I find the more I think about it, the less it holds up.  It’s a movie that just raises questions, but that might be a great thing, because it’s super fun to discuss it with friends!

5 out of 10 – just my personal and very subjective rating, you may love it, or you may hate it - it's certainly interesting and well-crafted.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Movie Review: Captain Marvel (PG13 – 124 minutes)

In Marvel Comics, Carol Danvers first appeared in March of 1968.  She first became the superhero Ms. Marvel when her DNA fused with that of Dr. Walter Lawson who was actually a Kree scientist named Mar-Vell.  Over the years, she fought for equal pay for equal work, was socially progressive, and became a symbol of the feminist movement.  Eventually she shifted off “Ms.” And went to her Air Force rank of Captain.  I am most familiar with her from the animated Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes series, in which she swiftly established her skill and power, becoming a formidable ally and member of S.W.O.R.D.

In this 21st movie in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), we are introduced to Vers (pronounced ‘Veers’), a Kree warrior who appeared on their planet, Hala, six years ago with no memory of who she was or what she was doing. Plagued by dreams, she spends her time training with her commander, Yon-Rogg, for various Star-Force missions in the ongoing Kree/Skrull war.  The Skrulls are a race of shapeshifters, and the Supreme Intelligence (which, of course, is the Artificial Intelligence in charge of the Kree empire) decides to send Vers off with her squad to rescue their informant before the Skrulls get ahold of him and the information he’s collected.  The mission starts off pretty well, the Star-Force heads in while the Accusers wait above, ready to bomb the planet out of existence.  They stumble into an ambush, the Skrulls grab Vers, and they begin poking around in her brain to find details about possible light-speed travel.  What they find opens up her memories about her life as an Air Force pilot on earth, sending all of them on a crash course for 1995 earth where she meets a younger Nick Fury and does some adventuring with him, Maria Rambeau (yes, she has a daughter named Monica), and Goose the ‘cat’. 

I won’t say anything further than that, because I really loved this movie and it’s worth you checking it out.  Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, it has a great sense of adventure and fun, and is certainly a great stand-alone origin movie to the MCU.  The front half moves a little slow, as it is mostly exposition and research. However, once the action really kicks in, the movie is fast and fun, and Carol really steps into her own as the most powerful character in the MCU. Get ready Thanos.
  • Brie Larson has already done an exceptional job stepping up into the role of the next leader of the upcoming few phases of the MCU, taking over from Chris Evans the off-screen duties of visiting fans and battling Nazis on Twitter.  Social Activism is not required from the actors in the MCU, but it does speak to the quality of people they hire for these movies when their values seem to naturally align with their character’s values.  Larson is wonderful as Danvers, all cocky self-assuredness with just the right amount of doubt caused by the memory loss.  She wants to be the best, whether that’s a Star-Force fighter, or an Air Force pilot. Once she realized she’s been held back for most of the movie, the moment she sets herself free and steps into her full potential is absolutely magic and Larson plays it just perfectly.  I wanted Katee Sackoff in this role for years, but Larson has completely won me over.  We didn’t see Agent Brand in this movie, so perhaps Sackoff can step into that role.

  • Samuel L. Jackson seems to be having the time of his life playing a younger Nick Fury. He gets to hang out as Captain Marvel’s sidekick, helping her figure out her past. Also, his scenes with the cat are wonderful.

  • Ben Mendelsohn continues his run as ‘villain of the moment’ by playing Talos, the head of the Skrull unit we see in this movie. He manages to give Talos just enough layers to stay interesting and engaging, and wow, the makeup is stunning.  After seeing Skrulls for years in comics and animated shows, I never thought they would make it to the screen, because they are ridiculous looking, but he did an amazing job.

  • Jude Law plays Yon-Rogg, Vers’s trainer and commander.  He’s fairly insistent that she learn to control her emotions in order to become a great warrior.  He does a good job of being incredibly patronizing for the majority of the movie. 

  • Annette Bening plays Dr. Wendy Lawson (see what they did there?), as well as the image that Vers sees when she interacts with the Supreme Intelligence (you see whoever you most admire).  Bening gets to play a lot of fun angles in this, and really seems to be having a great time.

  • Lashana Lynch plays Maria Rambeau, and the scene where she gets to remind Carol of who she used to be brought me to tears. Everyone needs friends who always have your back and are strong when you are at your weakest, helping you recover.

  • Clark Gregg brings Agent Coulson back to the big screen in a much younger and inexperienced version. It was an absolute joy to see him.

  • Gemma Chan played Minn-Erva, another member of the Star Force who doesn’t particularly care for Vers.  Yes, it would have been cool for her to have a bit more to do.

  • Additional Star Force teammates are played by Rune Temte (Bron-Char), Algenis Perez Soto (Att-Lass) and Chuku Modu (Soh-Larr).

  • Djimon Hounsou returns as Korath the Pursuer, and we get to see him here with the Star Force, prior to starting work for Ronan and his fanatical Kree off-shoot adventures when we run into them in Guardians of the Galaxy, which is set a number of years later.
  • Speaking of which, Lee Pace returns as Ronan the Accuser, here working with the rest of the Accusers, doing questionable things. I am hoping the Captain Marvel sequel allows us to see what happened to him between this movie and Guardians.

Overall, I absolutely loved it. It’s so much fun and has some great action.  There are some powerful women in it, and it certainly has some feminist themes, but in what I would consider a supportive and subtle way.  She’s flawed, she’s human, and that’s her greatest strength.

9 out of 10 – fantastic, but the more I see it (I'm on three times already), the higher I want to give it.  The digital de-aging looks pretty good, but some of the CGI here and there was iffy.  The practical stuff was amazing, the hand to hand combat was great. Also, points for the 90s music soundtrack, and for making me feel nostalgic about Blockbuster.  I used to spend a lot of time there – pretty sure I still have my card.

Yes, there’s a mid-credits scene tying it to Avengers: Endgame – which you knew would happen because the mid-credits scene of Infinity war was Fury beeping Marvel.  We have just over a month to wait to find out what happens once she gets that page and heads back to earth.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Movie Review: Isn’t It Romantic (PG13 – 89 minutes)

As I have said many times, romantic comedies are the one genre of movie that I believe should be completely predictable and stick to their prearranged layout: couple has meet-cute, they’re happy, some sort of drama ensues, they split, then one of them has a large overly enthusiastic demonstration of passion that causes the other to return, and they live happily ever after.  Now, I’ve always wanted one of them to end with a woman being happy and single, but that’s just not part of the trope.

Isn’t It Romantic revolves around Natalie, an architect working in New York City. She’s living in a crappy apartment and struggling with presenting her ideas to the new client at her firm while dealing with her best friend who seems to be into her, an assistant who is addicted to rom-coms (which she hates), and her neighbor across the hall who gets booty calls all the time.  After spending a full day explaining to her assistant how crappy rom-coms are, and listing all the stereotypical aspects of the movies, she gets mugged, hits her head, and wakes up in a hospital in a fantasy rom-com version of her life.

She’s in a much bigger and better apartment, and the neighbor is now her beyond-gay-stereotype best friend who is always down to help out and do a makeover.  The neighborhood is now lovely and brightly colored with no trash anywhere, and at the office, she and her assistant are now rivals – because in any rom-com, if there is more than one woman working in an office, they are mortal enemies.  She is suddenly the most desirable creature around, and the new client falls for her, determined to sweep her off her feet.  At first, she attempts to fight against it, but realizing she is trapped, she decides to go with it to get to the end of the story and get home.  Two musical numbers, a surprise wedding, and plenty of drama later, she gets a happy ending by realizing she is all she needs.
I was not expecting anything from this movie, so I was pleasantly surprised!  It’s fun, it’s fast, it’s silly, and very entertaining.  The cast seems to really enjoy everything they are doing.  Director Todd Strauss-Schulson does a good job of layering in plenty of tropes, but honestly I think they could have gone even further with them.  I almost wonder what it would have been had it been directed by Adam Shankman – which would have probably meant a few more musical numbers.  The cast was fantastic:
  • Rebel Wilson stars as Natalie, and is best in roles like this – hapless, but also completely in control.  She is bound and determined to master this sudden nonsense, and her delivery and performance is hilarious.

  • Adam Devin plays Josh, her best friend, and the chemistry between he and Rebel is reason enough to see this. Also, another reason I wanted them to have several more musical numbers. They are fantastic together. I definitely needed outtakes and bloopers over the end credits, as I am sure they improv with one another a great deal.

  • Liam Hemsworth plays Blake, the new client.  He is the perfectly silly version of the ‘perfect guy’ from all the rom-coms.

  • Priyanka Chopra plays Isabella, and put her years of Bollywood experience to great effect as the ‘perfect woman’ who suddenly shows up to woo Josh, making Natalie suddenly realize she is jealous and may have feelings for Josh.

  • Betty Gilpin plays Whitney, Natalie’s assistant and friend.

  • Brandon Scott Jones plays the neighbor Donny, who really steals all the scenes he is in.

  • Jennifer Saunders has a brilliant cameo as Natalie’s mom, convincing her that rom-coms are trash, and life never works out that way.

Overall, the movie is charming, fun, silly, and plenty entertaining.  I expected nothing, and was delighted by the result. 

7 out of 10 – definitely worth a rental on a rainy afternoon.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Movie Review: How to Train Your Dragon, The Hidden World (PG - 104 minutes)

The first How to Train Your Dragon was released in 2010, and really struck a chord with me. I had not read the books, but really loved the movie.  It tells the story of Hiccup, a young Viking from Berk who is not at all like his father and their clan of dragon-hating Vikings (who all sound Scottish).  Hiccup is failing his dragon-killing courses, and accidentally stumbles across an injured Night Fury dragon while wandering one day.  While bonding with the dragon, who he names Toothless, he learns a great deal about them and starts to excel at his courses. He then uses that knowledge to get his people to change their way of thinking, and begin working with dragons.
In the second movie, the people of Berk have begun bonding with and riding the dragons.  Hiccup and Toothless are exploring and charting the world as Hiccup gets closer to his love Astrid and his father prepares to name him as successor.  He and Toothless accidentally discover a secret dragon ice cave, and battle a warlord looking to build a dragon army.  Hiccup loses his father, gets named chief, finds his mother, and defeats the warlord as Toothless becomes the Alpha of all the dragons in Berk.  Many a tear was shed at this movie as it is really heavy in most parts.

That catches you up and prepares you for the last movie in the series, The Hidden World.  Hiccup is doing his best to ‘rule’ Berk as Toothless keeps the dragons in line but the village is full of dragons and there is little to no room for anyone or anything.  This is complicated as Hiccup and his riders keep bringing back additional dragons anytime they rescue them from poachers, which is what they spend most of their time doing.

A new enemy, Grimmel, arrives on the scene, famous for having killed all the other Night Furies in existence.  His sights set on Toothless, he does some threatening and posturing, enough to make Hiccup think it’s time to set off and find the ‘Hidden World’, a place where the people of Berk can live with their dragons, free from being hunted by anyone else.  Grimmel sets loose a Light Fury, a female dragon that completely distracts Toothless, and lets him get an advantage in hunting down the people and dragons of Berk.  Hiccup and Astrid begin to realize that perhaps they were not meant to live with dragons, and everyone would be safer if they said good-bye.

That sounds like a spoiler, but it isn’t – all the trailers have been stating that is what is happening in this movie. I went in prepared with a box of tissues next to my popcorn, considering how much the last one made me cry. I will say – it’s not nearly as heavy as the second.  It is touching, and moving, but it has a really happy ending.  Director Dean De Blois continues the amazing visuals in this movie from the others in the series, and it is just absolutely stunning. The world is lush and gorgeous, and the flight scenes make you wish you had your own dragon.  I really appreciated the scenes of just Toothless and his lady friend. I am always impressed with how expressive Toothless is (he looks like my cat, which is part of why I spent so much time crying at the last movie), and the scenes without any humans were lovely, because the communication between the dragons was so clearly expressed.  Toothless and the Light Fury are so enchanting, I felt like I didn’t really need any of the other characters!

  • Jay Baruchel is back as Hiccup, older, wiser, and a much better fighter this time around. He’s still a little overwhelmed by suddenly becoming chief, but he’s doing his best to lead his people.  The performance is wonderful, gentle, and relatable.

  • America Ferrera gives Astrid her fighting spirit as well as her loyalty and dedication to Hiccup. She's a perfect match for him, keeping him focused on the issues at hand.

  • F. Murray Abraham joins the cast and makes Grimmel arrogant and near-unbeatable. He's a bit like those horrific trophy hunters that you just want to see get eaten.

  • Cate Blanchett returns as Valka, Hiccup’s mother who suddenly reappeared in the second movie. She’s in this one to provide guidance, and – for some unknown reason – an object of flirtation between two of Hiccup’s friends. That was bizarre and unnecessary.

  • Gerard Butler has some flashback scenes as Stoick, Hiccup’s father.

  • Craig Ferguson returns as Gobber – the blacksmith who functions as Hiccup’s conscious and father-figure.

  • Jonah Hill plays Snotlout, Christopher Mintz-Plasse plays Fishlegs, Kristen Wiig plays Ruffnut (who has a hilarious scene where she annoys her captors into letting her go), and Justin Rupple plays Tuffnut (instead of T.J. Miller, who had done it in previous editions).

  • Kit Harington plays Eret, son of Eret, who is there to share exposition about Grimmel and what he’s done in the past.

The movie is exceptional, beautiful, touching, and fun. It’s the perfect ending to this wonderful trilogy.  Side note, I saw this opening weekend. In the row behind me, a woman had brought four young children, all seeming to be under the age of 4. None of them watched any of the movie, preferring to yell and scream at one another the whole time.  Listen, yes, it’s a kids movie, but it is a little more complicated than most with a great deal of fairly complex storytelling.  Maybe don’t take the really young ones to this one – if not for their sake, for the sake of everyone else in the theater.

9 out of 10 – absolutely wonderful.